When hard times come they sit a spell,
Like kin folk come to stay
A-packin' troubles, pets an' kids
That always get ‘n your way.
It's drought an' flood, an' flood an' drought,
There ain't much in-between.
You work like hell to make ’em good,
But still they’re sorta lean.
The ranch went under late last year,
The drought got mighty tough.
The boss held-out a long, long time,
But finally said, "enough!"
So here I am dispatchin’ cops
An’ watchin’ felons sleep,
In Junction, at the county jail,
A job I’ll prob’ly keep.
The wife, she works at Leisure Lodge,
Where older people stay,
A-makin’ beds an’ moppin’ floors
To earn some ‘extra’ pay.
Though “extra pay‘s” the term I used,
It goes to payin’ rent,
An’ after all the bills are paid,
We wonder where it went.
We hocked my saddle, guns an' chaps,
An' then our weddin' rings;
Then when we couldn't pay the loan,
They sold the 'dad-blamed' things.
We felt real bad a day or two
But then we let it go,
Cause it got Christmas for the kids
When money got real slow.
When hard times come they sit a spell,
Don't matter who you are;
They'll cost ya things you've set aside,
An' clean your cookie jar.
You'll loose some sleep an' worry some,
Won't pay to moan an' groan;
But hang on to your happiness,
They'll finally leave ya 'lone.
The ranch on which I hang my hat, though short on most the frills,
Is thirteen sections, give or take, of rugged trails an’ hills.
We call it ‘home’, our little world, our very own frontier,
Amongst the cattle, sheep an' goats; the varmints, hogs an' deer.
Today I watched the breakin' dawn an' whiffed the mornin' air,
A time I often set aside for things like thought an' prayer.
A Mockin'bird an' Mornin' Dove, an' other birds at play,
Were there to sing an' set the mood to start another day.
This mornin' saw the strangest thing, like time itself had merged,
An' all the souls who once were here, appeared an' then converged.
In swirlin' clouds of mist an' fog, right off the bluffs they rolled,
Till all had gathered in the glen, the modern an' the old.
The Indians, conquistadors, an' other ancient men,
The soldiers from this country's wars, an' cowboys from back when…
They all had come from yesterday to help me understand
Our link with those who came before, to heritage an' land.
A crazy notion, so I thought, that they could just appear,
But as the morning went along the reason got real clear.
They rode along with me that day to show me things I’ve missed,
The things I’ve seen a thousand times an’ some I’d just dismissed.
Those wagon roads of long ago, still evident today,
Are carved in rock an' rutted earth, not apt to wash away.
They linked the missions, forts an' towns those many years gone by;
An' left their mark for all to see, as modern times grew nigh.
The artifacts an' weathered ruins attest to yesterdays,
When others came an' lived their lives in very different ways.
We've seen their skill in arrowheads they honed from fired stone,
An' craftsmanship in beads an' tools they fashioned out of bone.
At ever turn and trail we took was something to remind,
The Maker must have had a plan laid out for humankind.
The Earth He made’s been feedin' us a half-a-million years,
An' used it's wonder, force an' change to challenge pioneers.
I do not know if they'll return or if they’ll feel the need,
But I’m prepared to ride the trail, where ever it may lead.
We all are spirits ridin’ time with bodies of the Earth,
Whose time has come to take the reins an’ offer up our worth.
The land has been the legacy we cultivate an’ reap,
The life has been the heritage our father’s fought to keep,
An’ we are bound throughout our time with those who came before,
To put our hearts and souls to it, and make it something more.
The day Will Shepard shot my dog
His barn burned to the soil;
The flames licked at the Autumn sky,
The smoke as black as oil.
I dropped the torch onto the earth,
And felt the whole world turn,
I stood and watched Will Shepard’s barn,
I stood and watched it burn.
The day Will Shepard shot my dog
I set his horses free,
They galloped over grass and sand,
They galloped to the sea;
I dropped my whip onto the floor
And thoughts turned to my gun
I stood and watched Will Shepard’s herd,
I stood and watched them run.
The day Will Shepard shot my dog
I put him in the ground,
My bullets found his heart and brain,
He fell without a sound;
And as his lifeblood ebbed away
And light fled from his eyes,
I stood and watched Will Shepard leave,
I stood and watched him die.
And now I sit here in my cell
And through the bars I spy
The carpenter with wood and nails,
Who builds my gallows high;
My vengeance has been satisfied
As far as I can see,
For that old dog Will Shepard shot
Meant all the world to me.
"I've rode the range now fer nigh on sixty years,
Brandin' dogies and ropin' them wily Hereford steers.
When I come to the end of the trail, I don't want no big scenes.
Boys, jes' wrap me in my hoss's blanket and bury me in my jeans!"
"I don't want you fellers carryin' on and bellerin' when I'm gone.
Jes' say a few kind words, git back in the saddle and carry on!
Think of me now and then when you're chewin' yer bacon and beans.
'Jes promise me you'll wrap me in a blanket and bury me in my jeans!"
"Promise me you'll take good care of my faithful hoss, Old Dan,
And let him tag along on roundups on the range when you can.
I love cowboyin', but boys you know I ain't a man of means.
Jes' wrap this poor old soul in a blanket and bury me in my jeans!"
"Buck, you kin have my scruffy boots and old sweat-stained hat.
Rusty, you take my saddle - Red, you kin have my 44-caliber gat.
Them's my worldly goods 'cept fer these jeans that's worn to smithereens,
But promise me you'll wrap me in a blanket and bury me in them jeans!"
"I'd like to be planted on that knoll yonder 'neath that ponderosa pine.
If you kin scare up a preacher to send me on my way, that'll do jes' fine.
I've been a cowpoke since I was fourteen - I reckon it's in my genes.
Boys, please promise me you'll wrap me in a blanket and bury me in my jeans!"
Robert L. Hinshaw, CMSgt, USAF, Retired
(c) All Rights Reserved
When doves on evenings, calm and still, call out a hollow tone,
They rouse a medley, old as time, so few have ever known.
The whispered lines of its refrains resound of yesterday,
In ancient tales and bygone trails that man cannot portray.
I’ve rode and worked along a trail throughout my many years.
I’ve heard the tales the sages tell of raging Longhorn steers,
Of soldiers marching single file or mounted days on end,
Of Indians, conquistadors and Rangers tracking men.
Mackenzie Trail is not well known for time obscures its fame,
But high regard is placed on it by those who know its name.
Its story’s scribed in black and white, its remnants etched in stone,
Its way was marked by sweat and blood, by grave and bleaching bone.
The broad frontier that it traversed had yet to be surveyed
And danger seemed to lie in wait at every turn and grade.
From Fort Clark Springs to forts on north, it led Mackenzie’s men
To risk their lives out on the trail, then brought them home again.
A mound lies near Mackenzie Lake, where horse thieves met despair,
For Rangers tracked their hurried trail and hung them then and there.
And near a barn not far away, in Live Oaks’ blissful shade,
The remnants of a camp still lie where soldiers often laid.
I’ve rode the trail and damned the rock that cost my horse a shoe.
I’ve crossed its draws that filled with rain and made my lips turn blue.
Its rugged paths have tested me and all who’ve come this way,
Yet, it remains my trail through time, my bond with yesterday.
Mackenzie Trail will long survive, a monument to will,
That I recall when I ride near on evenings, calm and still;
When doves exclaim in harmony, their lonely, hollow tone
And rouse the medley, old as time, so few have ever known.
We’ve shared the trail, kicked up some dust,
An’ stood a storm or two.
We’ve rode the plains, the wide frontier,
The easy trails were few.
You’ve listened like some wise old sage
To ever thing I’ve said,
An’ as a friend, supported me,
No matter where it led.
I wished I coulda carried you,
The times you were in pain;
Or rustled up some kinda shed
To turn the blowin’ rain.
I’ve come up shy with some your needs,
You gave me more’n you got,
But in your silence, seemed to know,
I needed you a lot.
Compadre, friend, amigo, pard;
I called you all them things,
But there’s been times, I swear to God,
You musta had some wings,
An’ He sent you to care for me
Like no one had before.
If you’as a man an’ not a horse,
I couldn’t a-loved you more.
We gave this ranch our sweat an’ blood,
It’s yours as much as mine,
An’ raised our young’uns through the years,
An’ Lord they’re doin’ fine.
They’re blazin’ trails an’ raisin’ dust,
They’re off an’ runnin’ free.
We’ve taught ‘em well an’ made ‘em strong;
Compadre, you an’ me.
I always knew the day would come
When we would fine’ly ride,
To join the Maker’s round-up time,
Up on the Great Divide.
I sorta hoped we’d share the trail
But this was not to be,
So, you go on, we’ll ride again;
Compadre, you an’ me.
Whether poets, showmen or philosophers,
Or mere cowboys who follow herds—
They all want to leave behind a lasting mark—
More than frail paper etched with words.
But the cold, hard truth still lies in the doing
And all but a blessed few will fail—
But on we go like bison over the cliff—
Hoping our wings sprout and we sail.
And like restless sleepwalkers we do wander
From one thing and then to the next—
Till we find what it is that will then save us
To put life in proper context.
So on we scribble and strive for the right phrase—
Catch meaning and life in birds—
Put emotions and feelings we briefly hold
On this frail paper etched with words.
We have been riding for ever so long;
Now our search for our freedom seems to be gone.
We only took; of that which we need;
And we had no tricks; hidden there up our sleeve.
For me it began when the banker came round;
And my daddy's ranch; was burned to the ground.
We were all wanted, with a price on our heads;
And we hoped if they found us, we’d fight till we're dead.
We lived life as outlaws, with weapons at hand;
And if time comes for hanging, we'll die like a man.
But we’re not alone, there are others around;
They're not hard to notice, they’re wearing a frown.
So they're building our gallows, nail by nail;
And we think hard about it, here in this jail.
But we made our choices; and then we got caught;
Yet we lived life as free men, never owned never bought.
From the view out the window, it's people I see;
They're tipping their hats; and smiling at me.
We may be convicted, but we're not disgraced;
And you won't see a tear, running down from our face.
So they plan to kill us, but our kind will not end;
There's cowboy’s now out there; who'll ride once again.
Me and the boys, we ran out of time;
But there will be others that come down the line.
So To all of you worms; who crawl in the dung;
You'll never stop hearing, the songs that we've sung.
You're hoping to change us, or get rid of us all;
But if we all ride as free men, perhaps you will fall.
You think you’re alone out on the range
Sittin’ silent under starry sky,
Just a marvelin’ at the universe
And wonderin’ ‘bout that ol’ question: why?
You shake your head at worlds of worry,
Knowin’ it ain’t often that you’ll find,
All the answers to your queries
Beneath the clear black sky and pine.
You wonder if we rose up from mud
And walked straight and tall upon this earth—
Or was it all created in a moment—
A conception that gave us true birth.
Are we all no more than those monkeys
Evolvin’ slowly down life’s long line?
Or is there more to earth and heaven
Touched by something truly sublime?
We keep on punchin’ clocks and cattle
And tryin’ to get through each new morn—
But is there more to life than dyin’
And will we somehow be reborn?
All the cattle know my hard proddin’
As I lead them along time’s sad way—
We live for but a flashin’ moment,
As we watch life go by in one short day.
So make the best of trails you ride, cowboy—
Each tomorrow is both yours and mine—
And gaze long at stars in that vast sky
Placed there by intelligent design.
Come and sit here by the fire
Watch the flickering firelight
Let me touch your lips with mine
Will you keep me warm tonight
I've been here reminiscing
Just feeling kind of sad
Wondering why angels love outlaws
And all the times we had
We've been through Hell together
Feeling the pleasure and the pain
Stood side by side against the world
In the sunshine and the rain
Outlaws live their lives on the edge
Their castles built with sand
Why angels fall in love with them
It's hard to understand
So while we're sitting by this fire
And thinking of all the times you cried
This outlaw loves his angel
I want you forever by my side.